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My porcelain veneers keep coming off. Is this normal?

I’ve been seeing the same dentist for the past four years, and she recently started fixing my teeth with dental veneers. The problem is, they keep coming off and causing me a lot of embarrassment and frustration.

My front teeth weren’t too bad to begin with. They were a bit yellow and a little chipped. A couple years ago, my dentist said I needed veneers on my eight upper front teeth to protect them because I grind them at night when I sleep and I’ve got some cracks in them. But the veneers just don’t seem to stay on. I lose one or more at a time and this could happen at any time, usually once a week. The last time, I lost two just while eating a banana!

I can even tell when one of my veneers is getting loose because a bad smell comes from it shortly before it pops off.

My dentist says this keeps happening because I grind my teeth. I do wear a night guard to protect my veneers, though.

My dentist has been good about seeing me right away to replace the veneers that come off, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this. It’s so embarrassing to lose my veneers because I’m left with ugly dark yellow nubs that don’t even look like teeth. I’m so afraid of losing my veneers in front of others that I often turn down social opportunities.

I was told these veneers were supposed to last me for at least 20 years, but I can’t imagine going through this for another 18 years. I hate the way I look when I smile, and I just don’t know what to do next.

I’m too embarrassed to see another dentist and I don’t think I could afford to do that, anyway.

Is it normal for veneers to keep coming off like this?

— Chardae from Oklahoma

Hello Chardae,

It sounds like you’re living a cosmetic dentistry horror story.

No, it is not normal for dental veneers to pop off like that. In fact, it sounds like what you have aren’t even veneers at all.

A veneer is a slim shell that covers just the front of a tooth, and it’s a purely cosmetic dental restoration. To prepare a tooth for porcelain veneers, only a slim layer of enamel has to be removed from the front surface and biting edge of the tooth.

But from what you are describing, it seems like your dentist placed dental crowns, not veneers.

A crown is a restoration that covers an entire tooth. The tooth has to be significantly reduced to what you might call a “nub” to make room for the crown.

You can see the difference between a crown preparation and a veneer preparation in the photo below:

Crowns and veneers serve completely different purposes; a crown helps protect and reinforce a weakened tooth, while a veneer, as mentioned earlier, simply enhances the cosmetic appearance of a front tooth.

So the first issue here is that your dentist is doing you a major disservice by telling you that she is placing veneers when in reality, she may be placing porcelain crowns. It seems she isn’t familiar with the technology and techniques for placing actual dental veneers.

Second, placing eight crowns across eight upper front teeth could be overkill if those teeth didn’t need to be drastically shaved down and crowned in the first place.

And finally, even if your dentist felt crowns were right for your teeth in your situation, she is doing you yet another major disservice because she isn’t placing them correctly. You describe a bad smell that comes out of your restoration before it comes off. This is caused by saliva and bacteria leaking inside the loose crown. If your dentist was using the right technique to securely attach the crowns, they wouldn’t be stinking and coming loose like that.

At this point, you should start looking for a new dentist. You might feel nervous about finding a non-judgmental cosmetic dentist. But the reality is that a truly skilled cosmetic dentist will never make you feel responsible for this horrendous ordeal.

Instead, a compassionate and artistically inclined dentist will help you understand your treatment options for making your smile look the way you want it to be. Additionally, your new dentist can help you negotiate compensation for this terrible treatment by your current dentist. She is responsible for paying for any treatment you need to undo the damage she has done.

This post has been published on behalf of cosmetic dentist Dr. Heng Lim of Owasso, OK.